On the way to Phillip Island from Melbourne, the Australian Garden Cranbourne - part of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne - is a must see.
Once through Cranbourne on the South Gippsland Highway, look for the sign at Ballarto Road and turn right.
The gardens are made up of about 350 hectares of original bushland plus the landscaped Australian Garden which covers 15 hectares.
The bushland offers 10 kilometres of walking tracks from the 400 metre Woodlands Walk
to the 5.4km loop of Wylies Creek.There are also 6 kilometres of cycling tracks.
Several of the walks are suitable for wheelchairs and prams.
Trig Point Lookout has views over the bushland and Australian Garden Cranbourne to the
two bays - Port Phillip and Westernport.
There are several picnic areas in the bushland with barbeques, shelters and playgrounds. Remember barbeques are not allowed during Total Fire Ban days.
The highlight for garden lovers is the landscaped Australian Garden.
The central focus is the red sand garden – evocative of the red heart of Australia.
With the sun hitting the red sand ridges, it is quite stunning.
Around the red sand garden are various gardens showcasing different types of plantings such as water saving, Gondwana, and stringybark among many others.
Plants are labelled with names plus other information.
Lakes and waterways add extra interest. Gibson Hill and Howson Hill are good photo points.
There is plenty of seating where you can sit and contemplate the different garden types, or just watch the birdlife.
There are lots of New Holland honeyeaters enjoying the blossoms of the native plants.
If you are lucky you might spot a Southern Brown Bandicoot foraging among the leaves.
The facilities offered at the Australian Garden Cranbourne are first class.
For a small fee there is a garden explorer vehicle to take you around the garden where you can hop on/off as you please. It is also wheelchair friendly.
There are also gardening experts who can answer questions and help with any queries regarding the gardens.
The visitor centre has a café, shop, baby change and toilet facilities. There is also a kiosk at the opposite end of the garden in case you need a rest midway!
Children can paddle in the Rockpool Waterway or play in the Kids’ Backyard. They will also enjoy exploring the meandering paths and might find a dinosaur bone in the Desert Discovery Camp.
Spring and summer are probably the best times to visit to enjoy the flowers but the gardens have something to offer during all seasons.
The garden is open all year round except Christmas Day.
Last entry is 4.30pm with the gardens closing at 5.00pm.
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